Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Darcey Bussell Joins Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday

Darcey Bussell, the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal ballerina, officially retired from dancing in June 2007. Since then she has largely concentrated on raising her family in Sydney , but she will return to London this week, in time to join Strictly Come Dancing at the quarter-final stage.

Joining regular judges, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Alesha Dixon and Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey will have a critical say in the outcome of one of the closest contests in the show’s history. “I hope they’re nice to me,” she laughs. “I met them when I performed on the show and I’ve seen some of Craig’s choreography and really admired his work. I suppose I’m probably most like Len, I want to give constructive criticism and help them along, but I’m quite prepared to say if they haven’t improved. All the judges have different qualities and, having been a dancer all my life, I know what it’s like to perform and what you need to be able to perform.”

To get a feel for how the series works, Darcey attended filming during the early weeks. “Since then I’ve followed it every week on the DVDs they send me. From the beginning, I’ve had my own list of people that I thought were going to survive and I’ve enjoyed seeing how they’ve done. Luckily I haven’t been too far wrong, although the public obviously has a big say – there’s a lot of sympathy voting, but that’s showbiz.”

Strictly’s format is now seen all over the world – in Australia it is known as Dancing With The Stars – but while it is popular there, Darcey says it’s not on the same scale as in England. “I’ve watched the show a lot in the last five years, but even so I was slightly shocked to discover how popular it is,” she says. “It’s exciting because it motivates people. We’re watching celebrities who have never danced before enjoying the experience of trying something that is great fun.”

As a judge, what will Darcey be looking for? “When a dancer is in control of the floor with every step, we say they are ‘eating up the stage’. I want to see them travelling, using the space and stretching themselves that little bit further than maybe they should; that’s exciting to watch. I hate anything safe and comfortable with no spark to it.”

She adds that the celebrity and professional dancers also need a certain indefinable something as a couple. “They can’t be just individuals, there must be some chemistry. I also want to know that the celebrity has really listened to the professional and understood what is required choreographically and that the professional has understood how much their celebrity can cope with.”

It’s far from easy, she admits, and nerves will play a big part in the outcome. “Actually, it’s wonderful to sit and watch instead of always being the dancer,” she reflects. “I will enjoy coming in at the end because they are going to be much more comfortable with performing. It still comes down to that crunch, but the standard is so high that it’s going to be a really tough final. There’s a wonderful mix of good girls and good guys, it will be interesting to see who the public is going to choose.”

How does ballroom dancing differ from the ballet discipline to which Darcey is accustomed? “I don’t think they do differ,” she says. “I went recently to do a bit of ballroom dancing as I hadn’t done anything like it before and I wanted to get a feel for it. If anything, the lines are very similar to classical dance. It’s a serious technique; from samba to ballroom to American smooth it’s all very specific. It’s just as fussy as classical ballet. To be that clean and precise, you have to have worked on it for eight to ten years to be a professional. The only difference is that in ballet we don’t compete... we’re judged in a slightly different way.”

Whatever kind of dancing appeals to people, Darcey believes Strictly Come Dancing has had a positive effect. “It’s brilliant,” she says. “It has got people who perhaps didn’t believe they had an interest in dance to go out and try it. They can appreciate that everybody can improve and when people see others having fun they want to get up and join in.”

Strictly Come Dancing is available on BBC One and BBC HD, this week's show is at 6.40pm with results revealed at 9.40pm. Don't forget you can get all the up-to-date gossip on Strictly Come Dancing’s sister show It Takes Two, weekdays at 6.30pm on BBC Two. For more information and gossip, visit bbc.co.uk/strictly or follow us on Twitter: @bbcstrictly and Facebook

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